Factory Acts bass player Matt Davies unearths a dark obsession with the BBC’s stalwart champion of the ‘alternative’, John Peel.
‘Unite and Win’ was the rather ironically titled A-side to Sham 69’s last single release before they unceremoniously disbanded for seven years. The track however holds the equally dubious honour of being the first of thousands of songs I systematically recorded from the John Peel radio show, at the time broadcast Mondays to Thursdays, 10pm till midnight on Radio 1 in crisp FM stereo. Monday 16th June 1980 may have been the day the US Supreme Court ruled that new forms of life created in labs could be patents. Of much greater significance, however, was this date marked the purchase of my first portable stereo radio-cassette recorder. Thus began the life and death battle to ensure I hit the pause button at precisely the moment a song faded to nothing, and again after Peel’s reassuring and witty faux Scouse mumblings gave intricate details about the ensuing, often very obscure, studio or session tracks from bands such as Monoconics, Abwärts, and Normil Hawaiians. How could I be so certain of that date? The same reason I know that on the very same 16/6/80 show Peel played at least 12 Clash songs from the soundtrack to their ‘Rude Boy’ film (the soundtrack still not available as an official release), The Ruts’ ‘Society’ (B-Side to ‘Babylon’s Burning’), live tracks on the ‘Moonlight Tapes’ album from The Members and The School Bullies (a Damned pseudonym), The Undertones ‘I Told You So’ (B-Side to ‘Wednesday Week’) plus ‘Back on the London Stage’ by the short-lived Jayne Casey fronted Liverpool band Pink Military, Magazine’s new single ‘Sweetheart Contract’ and ‘Gotta Gettaway’, the first track on Stiff Little Fingers’ recently released second LP ‘Nobody’s Heroes’. Who cares that the Blues Brothers film premiered in Chicago on this date? This was the launch of my long-term love affair with the only radio show on the planet that mattered.
Although already a convert to the bands which briefly transformed Top of the Pops and the UK charts in the late 1970s – The Jam, Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Blondie, The Undertones, The Damned, Ian Dury, The Stranglers, Public Image (yes, ‘Death Disco’ was on ToTP, make a note Mr Holland) – once I’d first dipped into the Peel show around late 1979, it was quite clear some of the above and their compatriots were already hardening into an Indy elite dangerously close to succumbing to the mainstream. In the meantime, without the Peel show, thousands of other equally innovative and brilliant emerging acts would never be accessible to your average Barnton village 16-year-old whose concept of cosmopolitan was the three mile school commute to the cultural gig-less backwater of the mid-Cheshire town of Northwich. For those of us living in the sticks with little or no access to live bands, Peel was an aural window on an exotic world. Unless you had older siblings or trendy parents with burgeoning record collections and /or access to a local purveyor of ‘alternative’ vinyl releases and plenty of disposable income, once you’d heard Peel play new tracks from The Fall, Penetration, Magazine, Delta 5, Dead Kennedy’s, Echo and the Bunnymen, Killing Joke, The Mo-Dettes, The Mekons, Misty in Roots, they disappeared into the ether if you didn’t record them. There was not only no streaming services and no digital radio, the birth of the internet was still 11 years away. Microsoft and Apple were still in their infancy. There was at best – for me – Barnton Library, from which you could borrow (and of course copy) records – I discovered the Buzzcocks ‘Another Music in a Different Kitchen’ this way, and Pink Floyd’s ‘Animals’. You listened to music on records, tapes, the radio, Top of The Pops and if you were really with it, The Old Grey Whistle Test. And crackly, often inaudible, pirate Radio Luxembourg. The mantra of the copyright authorities at the time was ‘home taping is killing music’. In my case, nothing could be further from the truth. Most early vinyl purchases were inspired largely from recording the John Peel show. It didn’t seem obsessive at the time, but I had already started to make notes in little red cash books of the weekly UK Top 40 pop charts (5-7pm every Sunday). This evolved into jotting down the names of bands and tracks Peel played and rating them out of five and then ten, in the unlikely eventuality of being able to seek them out for future listening. Once I had the necessary equipment to record the show in crystal clear stereo, I built up a stockpile of C90 cassettes (Memorex, BASF, TDK) and the soundtrack to my A-Levels was assembled. I jotted down names of bands and tracks on scrap pieces of paper and neatly transferred these not only onto the cassette inlay cards but also into my little notebooks, alongside the date played and their position on the tape counter which indicated at what point on the tape a track would start. And thankfully, being the hoarder I am, I still have the tapes…. and the notebooks. They are starting to feel a little like historical documents. As far as I know, despite the best recent efforts of Peel devotees to compile the definitive tracklistings of every Peel show from 1967 – 2004 (not kept by the BBC), as yet these exist as scraps scattered over various websites (check out the brilliant The Perfumed Garden blogspot). Despite several thousand recorded tracks from mainly the early 1980s, my own archives are meagre snapshots of the brilliant vastness of non-mainstream music at the time. And looking back at them 36 years later I am reminded how lucky I was to have been able to indulge in such musical treasures. I try to maintain a healthy scepticism of the mantra that ‘music ain’t as good as it used to be in our day’. I see plenty of bands currently who are equally as innovative, passionate, political, daring. I can’t help thinking though that the template for their sound was forged in that early period. Of course, music often leaves the most indelible mark in our most formative periods (late teens, early twenties). Yet it is hard to suppress the notion (inevitably boorish to many) that most of the tracks played by Peel, just in a few weeks of mid-1980, still sound as fresh as ever. Later releases by some of the same bands lost their mojo, more often than not owing to commercial pressures. Bands I loved at the time – Simple Minds, Human League, Altered Images, Psychedelic Furs, Adam and the Ants, UB40.
Here’s a flavour of the late December 1979 notebooks, the first time I heard Peel’s Festive 50 and which also featured the man’s favourite (now legendary) four-track sessions of the year, recorded especially for the show. 21st December 1979: sessions from The Jam, Killing Joke, Skids, Cockney Rejects, Undertones, Misty in Roots, followed by numbers 50 – 41 of the Festive 50. 24th December: sessions from The Cure, The Damned and Steel Pulse (numbers 40 -31 of Festive 50). 26th December: sessions from Stiff Little Fingers, Gary Numan, Penetration, The Specials, The Chords (numbers 30 – 21) – a tip of the iceburg. It tickles me that rating tracks out of five was too restrictive and this expanded to 10, some with bland annotations. So Cockney Rejects ‘Eastend’ gets a respectable 6.5, Killing Joke’s ‘Psyche’ 7.5, The Jam’s ‘Eton Rifles’ 8.5 (with the note “John Peel session version, single version slightly better”). Once it got to the Festive 50 tracks it was obviously getting harder to differentiate the rankings and so more refined fractions ensued. The Fall’s ‘Rowche Rumble’ gets a bizarre 8 and three-eighths, Dead Kennedy’s ‘California Uberalles’, 9.5 and The Skids ‘Into the Valley’ a whopping 9 and three-quarters. When it came to the Top Ten (broadcast it seems on 1 Jan 1980) they all tie at 9 and three-quarters (‘Anarchy in the UK’ predictably number 1). My embarrassing initial antipathy to reggae was encoded by the twos and threes allocated to Misty in Roots with the note against their session track ‘Babylon’s Falling’ reading “tediously boring record” and an extra note on the band in general – “boring reggae group play so-called moving music”! Equally mystifying notes on bands from 20 December 1979 include “bit unusual” (Killing Joke), “futuristic music but not as synthesiserish as Gary Numan” (Magazine), “woman lead singer, Pauline, have split up recently but are quite good” (Penetration) and “mixture between UK Subs and Angelic Upstarts, good, fast and loud” (Cockney Rejects). Middles and Morley would not be fearful for their jobs.
If evidence were needed that Peel gave the first (and often only) airplay to artists subsequently cited as major influences on modern music, a glance at the first three months of recordings in my notebooks (June to September 1980) reads like a catalogue of the future canon of influential artists. The demise of Ian Curtis had an inevitable impact and a few weeks later Peel was repeating Joy Division’s two sessions (both on 23 June), all four tracks of their first EP (18 June), the newly released free three-track flexidisc (26 June), more obscure fare from the Factory Sample and Earcom 2 EPs and everything more than once from the yet to be released posthumous second album ‘Closer’. It seems bizarre now, but if it wasn’t for the chance recording of some of these tracks I would never have had access to the complete Joy Division oeuvre until classics such as ‘No Love Lost’, ‘Digital’ and ‘Autosuggestion’ became more widely available on the ‘Substance’ compilation eight years later.
During this brief period Peel played sessions recorded exclusively for the programme from bands yet to release or having just released their first LP – Echo and the Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs, OMD, Bow Wow Wow, Altered Images – all who subsequently achieved degrees of musical world domination. Other, more short-lived bands, are still cited as seminal influences by many. If it wasn’t for Peel, bands like the Young Marble Giants, Dead Kennedys, Diagram Brothers, The Birthday Party and Delta 5 (see all below) would have received no national airplay.
What also strikes me now, listening to some of these shows again, is the absence of any fuss made by Peel about bands fronted by female singers. They were the norm, not just tokens to fill a gender quota. Before I started listening to the show my only exposure to what I considered decent bands with a woman on vocals were the two Susans (Suzi Quatro, Siouxsie Sioux) and Debbie Harry of Blondie. But Peel made it so easy to ignore gender, race and any other differences, and concentrate purely on the brilliance of the music. So the likes of Kleenex/Lilliput, The Slits, Pauline Murray, The Petticoats, Young Marble Giants, Pink Military, The Passions, Altered Images, The Mo-Dettes, Bow Wow Wow, Delta 5, Selector, Au Pairs, The Bodysnatchers, The Plasmatics, The Revillos/Rezillos and of course X-Ray Spex and Siouxsie, all nestled naturally amongst the more blokey bands – never patronised as ‘bands with woman singers’.
With this is mind, it is perhaps ironic that the social and political backdrop of this surge of creativity was the Iron Lady herself – Thatcher’s Britain was starting to make its mark, a year after the Conservatives took power for their 18-year tenure, and the tracks played by Peel in this period perfectly reflect the mood of the time – nihilistic, discordant, often minimalist, fearful for the future, but at the same time defiant, unfettered by music dogmas, experimental, DIY.
And so, 36 years after Sham 69’s rather lacklustre opening gambit- “What’s going to happen to our youth, of tomorrow? If we don’t change, then they won’t know” (‘Unite and Win’), it’s only fair that you replace the ‘saddo’ label you have already attributed to me, with the more accurate one of ‘music archivist’.
To help you peel back the years I offer you the obligatory list – 36 songs in chronological order of transmission – one for each year that has passed – as logged in the notebooks over a 14-week period starting 16 June 1980 (I had to stop somewhere). Note how many bands got their first, and sometimes only, break in this period (date of transmission in brackets), many who are still doing the rounds:
Pink Military – ‘Back on the London Stage’ (16 June): At the time the most beautiful thing I had ever heard and from this sprung the realisation that until this point I’d been missing out on a tuneage treasure trove. Vocals by Jayne Casey in the short-lived band (later Pink Industry) from the newly released LP ‘Do Animals Believe in God’. Check out the equally haunting single ‘Did you see her?’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=um6wc5S4ClI
Magazine – ‘Sweetheart Contract’ (16 June): Single-to-be from the recently released ‘Correct Use of Soap LP’ – I remember liking the quirky springing guitar sound and the unsettling lyrics. Sonically world’s apart from Buzzcocks’ debut ‘Spiral Scratch’ EP but boredom still permeates Devoto’s lyrics and delivery.
Echo and the Bunnymen – ‘Pictures on my Wall’ (17 June): From the repeat of a Peel session recorded 13 May 1980 – a precursor to the release of their first LP ‘Crocodiles’ in July that year. Initial intrigue at this retro sounding sinister psychedelia soon evolved into a four-year obsession peaking at ‘Ocean Rain’, and 36 years later still one of the best live bands on the circuit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rr8ufJf7S00
The Clash – ‘Bankrobber’ – (18 June): Released on 8 August that year, another curveball thrown by The Clash, this time a reggae influenced ballad, released halfway between a double LP (‘London Calling’, Dec 1979) and a triple LP (‘Sandinista’, Dec 1980) and yet appearing on neither. A young Ian Brown allegedly attended the recording session!
Rema Rema – ‘The Feedback Song’ / ‘Rema Rema’, (19 June): Officially released 1 April 1980. Side One of ‘The Wheel in the Roses’ EP best treated as two halves of one song – their only release after former Banshees guitarist Marco Pirroni became one of Adam’s Ants and rocketed to fame, and the first to bear the legendary 4AD record label logo. A prized vinyl possession and I’ve spent 36 years infatuated with that hypnotic opening bass line. The annoying ‘we are Rema Rema’ chant at the start is not on the original version which starts with the bass line.
Psychedelic Furs – ‘Soap Commercial’ (19 June): From a repeat of a session recorded in February 1980 around the same time as the release of their undervalued first LP, and my first encounter with the band. Richard Butler’s gravelly drone combined with the saxophone made for a unique and slightly unsettling commotion. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdfrrIgP0dY
Mo-Dettes – ‘Paint It Black’ (17 June): Great cover of a Stones track (though I had no idea at the time) and appropriate title for the mood of the era. Formed by Kate Korus, originally with The Slits. Probably best known for ‘White Mice’ from 1979, but this was my first proper introduction to low-fi DIY and it made a big impression. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yq2zNhhL-l0
Dead Kennedys – ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ (19 June): Hard to top their awesome ‘California Uberalles’ but this, their second single, was another classic – a satire on middle class America with references to the brutal Khmer Rouge and their leader Pol Pot. Lucky enough to see them at the ramshackle Mayflower club in Belle Vue (Manchester) on 1 October 1981 – a memorable start to my Manchester Poly course.
Human League – ‘The Black Hit of Space’ (23 June): The first track from their second (and best) album ‘Travelogue’. An everyday tale whereby the narrator puts on a record ‘with an ultra-modern label’ which plays a song so bland it not only consumes all of its chart competitors, it sucks humanity into a black hole. Scarily prophetic.
Joy Division – ‘The Sound of Music’ (23 June): Let’s face it I could have chosen anything from Closer, LWTUA and its B-side ‘These Days’ or the ‘Komakino’ flexidisc. However, this from their second Peel session, a repeat transmission a few weeks after the passing of Ian Curtis, was one of my biggest WTF moments. Devastating lyrics and a bassline that sucks the air out of your body. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXp9N5YSr9E
UB40 – ‘Food for Thought’ (24 June): They may be currently riddled with splits (half of them recently courting Jeremy Corbyn) and a legacy of frankly drab recordings after around 1982 (‘Red, Red Wine’, blurgh…), but let’s not forget UB40 were a brilliant band at the start. This Peel session track was recorded in December 1979, three months before they released it as their first single. The release of their first LP ‘Signing Off’ was still two months away. Although that deservedly garnered many plaudits, the production on the session tracks manages to outdo even the celebrated LP versions.
Athletico Spizz 80 – ‘Spock’s Missing’ (25 June): The band boldly went and did a sequel to their classic ‘Where’s Captain Kirk?’ (as Spizzenergi). This B-Side to their ‘No Room’ single finds narrator Captain Kirk confining himself to quarters for the crime of leaving first officer Spock in the forbidden zone. The trekkie in me delighted to hear the two songs played back to back on this date. Looking forward to Spizz’s Star Trek 50th anniversary follow-up……
OMD – ‘Enola Gay’ (25 June): A Peel session track recorded in April – a stripped back prototype of the band’s breakthrough single released in September. The title referring to the name of the plane which dropped the Hiroshima bomb (name taken from the pilot’s mother), it was one of a number of songs which encapsulated growing fears of nuclear proliferation at the time (see the YMG track below).
Young Marble Giants – ‘Final Day’ (26 June): Possibly the first radio play of the first single release by the short-lived but highly influential YMG. Clocking in at just 1.44 mins, this minimalist hymn to the last day of humanity relates nuclear armageddon with disquieting effect – “there is so much noise, there is too much heat, and the living floor throws you off your feet, as the final day falls into the night, there is peace outside in the narrow light’. A companion piece to Kate Bush’s equally petrifying ‘Breathing’, released the same year.
Diagram Brothers – ‘Bricks’ (30 June): Peel session version and later a single, I was hooked on this drole discordant Manchester band the instant I taped this. A tribute not to a Fall guitarist but to the humble habitation building block – “very useful objects, they’re not expensive at all”. All sharing Diagram as a surname but none of them brothers, Andy Diagram later played trumpet with James.
Kleenex/LiLiPUT – ‘Split’ (30 June): Brilliant single from the Swiss punk band which included the equally infectious ‘Die Matrosen’ (the one with the whistling) on the flip side. In my notebook I’ve named them Kleenex, and as I knew no alternative, Peel must have announced them as such at the time, although by the time of this release, legal threats from a certain paper purveyor led to the name LiLiPUT. A major inspiration for many excellent female-led bands. Altogether now – “hara-kiri bow-wow, hugger-mugger hop-scotch…”
Petticoats – ‘I’m Free’ (1 July): Basically German punk vocalist Stef Petticoat. There is only one Petticoats release and ‘I’m Free’ is one third of the tracks on the single. A dazzling low-fi subversive re-working of The Who song from ‘Tommy’. I’m fairly certain the deaf, dumb and blind man never sung “I’m so free being on the dole, there’s so many things I’m told…”. Interesting to compare with the Mo-Dettes above. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PziiWT05udg
Au Pairs – ‘Dear John’ (2 July): Only managed to tape this one of the four Peel session tracks recorded in June by the Au Pairs. Another band whose musical roots were hard to pin down. Lesley Woods’ warbled vocals were very beguiling. No idea at the time how political they were (e.g. Northern Ireland issues). This became one of my favourite tracks of the period, though then I thought it was about pen pals. No – its theme is masturbation, orgasms, sex fantasies – duh. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOTYfhrpIM4
Abwärts – ‘Computerstaat’ (2 July): First single by this Hamburg post-punk band – all motorik drums and angular guitars. Two members went on to join newly-formed Einstürzende Neubauten – pioneers of industrial punk and whose founder member Blixa Bargeld was a long-standing member of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds.
The Fall – ‘City Hobgoblins’ (3 July): The period when Peel started his life-long obsession with The Fall, dragging me along with it. A hugely creative period for the band who released three superb singles in 1980 (‘How I Wrote Elastic Man’ from which this is the B-side, ‘Fiery Jack’ and ‘Totally Wired) plus the ‘Grotesque’ LP and a seminal Peel session. This may have been the first transmission of ‘How I Wrote Elastic Man’ which Peel played to death. The Fall’s B-side collection alone would satisfy the whole careers of many a respectable indy band, and this was one of them. Refers to Jenna Coleman being a large black slug in Piccadilly Manchester, or something like that…..
Bow Wow Wow – ‘C30 C60 C90 Go’ (7 July): Debut single from the band fronted by (at the time) 14-year-old Annabella Lwin, ‘discovered’ by a friend of Malcolm McLaren whilst working in a dry cleaners. Never one to shun experimentation McLaren released this as a cassette-only single, the first of its kind, and appropriate (or ironic?) given that the lyrics are a celebration of home taping. As with many of their songs, sexual innuendo abounds. Perfectly encapsulates the spirit of this article (I was always a C90 man myself…).
Delta 5 – ‘You’ (7 July): My first experience of Leeds post-punk pioneers Delta 5 (the seminal ‘Mind Your Own Business’ being released at the end of 1979). Part of the fourth transmission of a Peel session recorded in February that year. Rarely has the second person personal pronoun been used with such crushing (and humorous) effect as a window on relationships. Check out the recent Delta 5 cover versions cassette ‘Days of Our Youth’ released by members of Leeds band Esper Scout as a tribute to drummer Kelvin Knight.
Crass – ‘Shaved Women’ (9 July): I’d seen Crass products nestling threateningly in record shop racks, but even glancing slyly sideways at one felt like a subversive act. Being a bit of a wuss, my first exposure therefore was this Peel session, recorded in 1979. Never quite took to them but this certainly left a psychological scar – a diatribe apparently (or not) about the post-World War Two humiliation, by shaving, of women accused of being Nazi collaborators – screamed in synchronicity with a chugging guitar and train. I’d do Match of the Day in my boxer shorts if Adele promised a cover version. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elNqi2o9EvU
Sector 27 – ‘Not Ready’ (10 July): The fact that this classic first single by the band fronted by Tom Robinson made little headway is an indicator of the quality of music around in this period. Glam rock meets Joy Division – wonderful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0Q3ivVRp18
Section 25 – ‘Girls Don’t Count’ (10 July): You could always count on Peel to make clever juxtapositions so it was typical of him to be able to find bands called Sector 27 and Section 25 releasing their debut singles in the same month, hence playing them back to back. The latter’s single – a pessimist repetitive drone listing things that don’t count (girls, money, talk, ambition….) – and highly collectable if you have the original Fac 18 single with the tracing paper sleeve.
Comsat Angels – ‘Waiting for a Miracle’ (15 July): In pledging to only use the adjective ‘underrated’ once, I have reserved it for Sheffield’s Comsat Angels. This track, from their Peel session recorded in April that year, became the title track of their outstanding debut LP released in September. One of the most original bands of the period, but not receiving the acclaim they deserved. U2 were their support act on one early tour and my mate who saw them claim Bono blew them out of the water, but for me Comsat Angels had the massive edge…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gSS6PlKu0o
Ruts – ‘In a Rut’ (22 July): On this date Peel played all 14 tracks from The Ruts’ three Peel sessions as a tribute to singer Malcolm Owen who died of a heroin overdose the previous week. From their last session, recorded February 1980, ‘In a Rut’ was an updated version of their first single (Jan 1979) and inevitably seen as prophetic, especially considering the B-side to the single, ‘H-Eyes’ was a warning against heroin abuse. A brilliant band cut short in their prime. The posthumously released ‘West One (Shine On Me) was a sign of their versatility. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUdhEfX4jao
Siouxsie and the Banshees – ‘Desert Kisses’ (23 July): Peel previewed the Banshees ‘Kaleidoscope’ LP before its release in August by playing every track over four programmes that week. Featuring the singles ‘Happy House’ and ‘Christine’ it marked a tonal departure from the first two LPs – thanks in no small part to new members Budgie on drums and former Magazine guitarist John McGeogh. ‘Desert Kisses’ was a particular favourite – haunting lyrics and mesmeric guitar and vocals. Unmatchable live act as well.
….. and the Native Hipsters – ‘There Goes Concorde Again’ (31 July): A super sonic six minutes and 43 seconds of bonkers battiness. Pushing the boundaries of what constitutes a ‘song’, Peel played this several times at the risk of alienating even his hard core listeners. Nanette Greenblatt on vocals (accompanied by William Wilding) peering “from a high window through net curtains” at women of various shapes and sizes walking up and down a hill. I dare you to count the number of times she repeats the song title. Genius.
Beat – Whine and Grine / Stand Down Margaret (7 August): From another outstanding first LP ‘I Just Can’t Stop It’, a Prince Buster cover with an appeal for Margaret Thatcher to resign tagged onto the end. Lyrics such as “I see no joy, I see only sorrow, I see no chance of a bright new tomorrow” sung to a jaunty ska beat gave the band some political kudos whilst maintaining their credibility as a great live dance act.
Waitresses – ‘Wait Here, I’ll Be Back’ (7 August): Or as it is more commonly known ‘I Know What Boys Like’, it took a couple of years after its 1980 release for this to become a hit. The Ohio band’s most famous recording is one of the few tolerable Xmas songs – ‘Christmas Wrapping’.
Furious Pig – ‘I Don’t Like Your Face’ (18 August): A quick glance on Discogs and Furious Pig only released one three track 12” single (Rough Trade 1981). Not surprising really. But this crazy instrument-free a cappella group who supported the Fall, Slits and Pere Ubu could only ever have got airplay on Peel – even more untranscribable than the Cocteau Twins. This is from their only Peel session and in my notebooks sandwiched between Siouxsie and Mickey Dread – stretching the definition of an eclectic radio playlist to the limit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_b3_YUF3t8
XTC – ‘Travels in Nihilon’ (8 Sept): From the superb ‘Black Sea’ LP, released the following week, this is one of the best sounding nihilistic tracks ever made by any band, and not representative of XTC’s more typical jangly guitar driven songs. Based on the title of an Alan Sillitoe novel, a crushing critique of the commoditisation of the punk /new wave movement. According to singer Andy Partridge, based on his “enormous disappointment and my feeling that it was all a con – the music, the fashion” (http://chalkhills.org/articles/XTCFans20080629.html). And listen to those drums…….
B52s – ‘Devil in My Car’ (2 September): With a deserved reputation as a brilliant dance band, there was often also a sinister tone to the lyrics and delivery of earlier tracks, largely as a result of Ricky Wilson’s discordant guitar twangs, Fred Schneider’s vocal delivery and the other-worldly harmonies of Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson. From their ‘Wild Planet’ LP, a perfect soundtrack to a 1950s horror B-movie….. and you can dance like hell to it.
The Passions – ‘The Swimmer’ (1 October): Couldn’t do this list without including The Passions, best known for ‘I’m in Love with a German Film Star’. This was their third single and also features on the sublime ‘Thirty Thousand Feet Over China’ LP. Barbara Gogan’s soaring vocals matching the ‘not drowning but waving’ lyrics and the catchiest of guitarist riffs. Peel was a massive fan, and it’s a pity they didn’t last much beyond 1982.
The Birthday Party – ‘Friend Catcher’ (6 0ctober): How else would Nick Cave have got national radio airplay if it wasn’t for Peel? The Cave fronted band’s first UK single after changing their name from Boys Next Door played a week before its release, Peel was an ardent champion of the band. And 36 years later Cave is one of the most important and influential recording artists (and novelist, screenplay writer) ever. The wall of feedback and screeching guitars on their debut single makes a startling contrast with Cave’s recently released masterpiece ‘Skeleton Tree’ recorded under tragic circumstances. The latter best experienced after watching the ‘One More Time with Feeling’ documentary.
Note: thanks to Stephen Doyle for giving me a regular slot – ‘Peeling Back the Years’ – on his legendary Salford City Radio Punk Show, which featured tracks from the notebooks.
There is a Spotify playlist link for those of you that like a bit of streaming. Links to the ones not available on Spotify given in the track comments.